The General's Daughter (18) 116 mins ** 'Are you a soldier or a policeman?’ John Travolta’s military cop is quizzed in The General’s Daughter. Seasoned cinema-goers will already know the answer: Neither - he's a maverick. Or, as another more perceptive character in the film puts it, ‘the scoundrel in the rumpled suit with a healthy disdain for the rules.’
Travolta's Paul Brenner is an undercover detective in the US Army's Criminal Investigation Division trying to get to the bottom of an explosive murder case on a military base in the Deep South. The victim is Elisabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), an officer in Psychological Operations and the daughter of General 'Fightin' Joe' Campbell (James Cromwell), a war hero who is about to make a bid for the Vice Presidency. His daughter’s body has been found staked spread-eagled and naked to the ground and strangled in the middle of a training field, and the crime threatens to blow the General's political ambitions out of the water.
With the aplomb of Miss Marple in an English country house after a body has turned up in the library, Brenner sizes up the suspects. They include Elisabeth's enigmatic mentor Colonel Moore (James Woods), the base’s by- the-book Provost Marshal Colonel Kent (Timothy Hutton), and the General's toadying aide Colonel Fowler (Clarence Williams III).
The scene in which Travolta and Woods square off to each other is the film's centrepiece. 'We both know we're smart guys,’ says Woods as the two begin a bout of intellectual cock-fighting that allows them to compare the size of their le. The encounter is hardly on a par with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat, but there's far more spark between the pair than there is
Squaring off: Travolta and Woods in The General's Daughter
between Travolta and his nominal love interest in the film, Brenner's old flame and colleague Sarah Sunhill, played by Madeleine Stowe.
Former ad man now director Simon Wincer gives the production a glossy sheen, and he shows off his action chops with a completely redundant sub-plot about arms smuggling. But whereas his debut film, Con Air, revelled in its brainlessness, The General's Daughter would like us to take its pulp prurience seriously. Based on a bestseller by Nelson DeMille. the film pretends to be tackling the issue of women in the military. but the camera spends far too much time ogling the victim’s naked corpse for it to be anything other than exploitative and empty-headed pap. (Jason Best)
a General release from Fri 77 Sep.
It's a wonderful life: Rosalind Ayres, Charlotte Coleman, Edin Dzandzanovic and Charles Kay in Beautiful People
finds himself in the killing fields of Bosnia. Back on English soil, the Volvo- driving doctor confronts the war crime of rape when Bosnian parents-to-be plead for an abortion. While in a hospital ward, a sister plays at shuttle diplomacy, as she runs between the beds of the recovering aforementioned Serb and Croat. They are watched over by a fellow-patient, a Welshman and arsonist of English holiday homes who is recovering from burns. Warfare and nationalism in foreign fields is localised.
Dizdar has laden his film with similar telling encounters. It dives sharply
Beautiful People (15) 107 mins *‘***
A Bosnian Serb and a Bosnian Croat fight on a red London bus. Formerly neighbours in their homeland, they are now refugees battling it out abroad. Meanwhile, in the city's leafy ’burbs, a Volvo-driving doctor is doing the school run. His wife left him the night before. Jasmin Dizdar’s Beautiful People played in Cannes and closed this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Tackling the legacy of faraway war in Bosnia and the break-up of domestic bliss among the English
18 THE UST 9-23 Sep 1999
professional classes makes for a film that's far from unambitious.
Born in Bosnia and living in Britain since 1989, Dizdar has a keen eye, an eye trained on an often precarious British social scene. Drug-takers, racists, snobs, alternative therapists, liberals, forlorn housewives, lone fathers, even BBC executives all feature, kicking at life with varying degrees of hate and savagery. Dizdar's cleverness comes in taking a diseased rump of British insularity and throwing in a good handful of common humanity.
A London drug addict/footy hooligan
between poignancy, provocation and humour. But the encounters can trespass upon the untenable and the storylines are almost too numerous. Clearly out to make a film that is optimistic, Dizdar too frequently short changes reality. Warring factions end up playing cards on the hospital bed and the Bosnian couple are reconciled with their new-born child. An engaging film, but it could be in danger of appeasing a nation’s guilt. Sadly, the beautiful don‘t always win the day. (Susanna Beaumont)
a Glasgow GFT; Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 17 Sep.
A La Place Du Coeur (15) 112 mins intuit
Premiered at last month’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, A La Place Du Coeur testifies to the vitality of regional French filmmaking. Robert Guediguian’s film proves that provincial settings and lives are just as, if not more important than Paris-centric ones. As Guediguian himself says, ‘The big world, far from the necessities of life, seems to me, by this very definition, far removed from all humanity’.
Guediguian’s follow-up to Marius Et Jeanette is once again set in Marseilles and once again focuses on the working and unemployed underclasses. Despite living below the poverty line with their respective families, the childhood sweetheart romance between Clim and Bébé develops into full-blown love. Soon she's pregnant and, after securing family blessings, they move into a studio apartment to live out a blissful existence. That’s until a racist policeman imprisons Bébé - because he’s a black African- Frenchman — on a trumped-up rape charge.
In another filmmaker’s hands — Loach or Leigh perhaps, to whom Guediguian has been compared — events might well spiral down into a depressing conclusion. Instead, Guediguian's optimistic film celebrates its characters, without ever becoming cloyingly sentimental or overly dramatic. The two families unite in their efforts to free Bebe, in spite of very little in the way of financial resources. And when the rape victim is speedily deported back to her home in Sarajevo and Bébé’s case seems hopeless, Clim's mother, Marianne (played by Marius Et Jeanette’s lead actress Ariane Ascaride) undertakes a desperate journey to the former Yugoslavia to beg the key witness to clear Bébé’s name.
What Guediguian suggests through the heart-warming efforts of his characters is a diaspora among the working classes. In fact, he doesn't just link Marseilles folk with Sarajevans; A La Place Du Coeur is an adaptation of African-American writer James Baldwin’s novel, If Bea/e Street Could Talk, and so there's an international connection. What ties these folk together is their strength of character and beautiful humanity, and it's this that provides Guediguian's film with its feelgood factor. Who said social realism has to be all doom and gloom? (Miles Fielder)
a Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 77 Sep. Working class hero: Ariane Ascaride in A La Place Du Coeur